Week 1: Part 1 - Hola Everyone!

July 5, 2018

Spirit Cultural Exchange offers individuals the opportunity to help with a variety of volunteer projects in Ecuador while immersing themselves in the local culture. Volunteer projects are available throughout the year for a minimum of one week and are offered in many different fields. We hope you enjoy reading the blogs of our summer 2018 scholarship winner Monika S!

Hola everyone! I am super exited to share my adventures with you all. I have been in Quito for 3 days only, and it feels like I have been here for a week because I have already done and learned so much!
I left Chicago on Friday at about 2PM, had a layover in Panama City for about an hour, then got to Quito at 1AM! Despite all of the flights going very smoothly, I was exhausted! I’m lucky there is no time change between Quito and Chicago, though.
So I wake up Saturday morning and formally meet everyone. I am living with a host family that houses a bunch of other people, so I have met people from all over these past few days. I spent Saturday and Sunday with two girls, one from Canada and one from Missouri. They were kind enough let me join in on their plans for the weekend!
On Saturday, we went to “el Mitad del Mundo” AKA the equator! I did NOT expect to go on a trip to the equator on my first day in Ecuador, but of course I am super happy I did! We took two different buses to get there, which were super crowded, but we finally made it. We entered this mini village with shops, restaurants, and museums surrounding a giant monument that was directly on the equator line. One thing to note is that new technology has shown that the actual equator is 400 meters away from the one drawn here, but that didn’t stop the tourists from coming! 
On Sunday, we went to the “old town” of Quito, where it is famous for having literally dozens of churches. Being Sunday, the roads were closed off to cars, so obviously they were filled with tourists, people coming and going to church services, and street vendors. There was even a live band playing on one street. The atmosphere was super lively and we saw a lot of beautiful churches! 
Today is Monday- I had my orientation to the program. First, I got a tour of the Spanish school, the surrounding neighborhood, and I was also brought to the hospital that I will be volunteering at. It is a hospital for the public- specifically for people with low incomes. Patients at the hospital have to pay very little to nothing for the medical services they receive. I will be starting in the emergency room tomorrow, so keep reading to see what adventures that brings!
I was also supposed to have my first Spanish lesson today, but something happened to my teacher, and we will make up our lesson another day. I was super excited for my lesson because I could overhear so many productive lessons occurring at the Spanish school while I was there for the orientation, but that just makes me even more excited for tomorrow! Also, I was relieved my lesson was cancelled because I used that extra time to run around half of Quito looking for a place to take my photo for my volunteer identification card. The recommended place to take photos was closed, so I set out on foot in search of another place. Although I was annoyed, I am so glad I had this little “inconvenience” because I learned so much- I spoke to multiple store owners and I definitely learned my way around the city way better. And plus, if nothing goes wrong, its not an adventure!
Also, what’s a blog without a little small-talk? The weather here is crazy! I still can’t believe it. Never again will I complain that one day it’s snowing in Chicago and the next day it’s a sauna. In Quito, the weather changes within minutes or miles. Minutes, because literally one minute the sun is shining and its hot, and the next minute, I am shivering! What I mean by miles is that if you are driving, the altitude changes drastically, and thus so does the weather. Also, for being at the equator, its cold here. While Chicago is having 95 degree days, it’s a steady 65 degrees every day here (with random bursts of HOT). I was definitely not expecting the weather here, but it is actually the perfect temperature- overall not too hot and not to cold. 
Anyways, I have to leave the house at 6:45AM tomorrow morning for my first day at the hospital, so I better head to bed! Check back on Wednesday or Thursday to hear how the next couple days go!